When someone doesn't want to face his or her boss, employees, or the public, do you take that as a bad sign? I do. And sometimes that problem shows up through the annual shareholders' meeting.
That's why it's shameful that Goldman Sachs
Typically these meetings are the only opportunity for shareholders to get direct contact with and question management and board members. They also unintentionally provide a forum for people to vent their wrath at poor corporate citizens. When something is amiss, these meetings can be embarrassing and grueling for management.
In recent years, shareholder meetings were forums for protests about executive pay and mortgage practices at Goldman Sachs, mortgage foreclosure practices at JPMorgan, and pay practices (executives versus union employees) at American Airlines. Moving their meetings this year resulted in fewer protestors. I doubt it was a coincidence.
Moving the meeting is not an original idea. In 2003 Hewlett-Packard
Courage under fire
GM isn't the only company willing to expose itself despite missteps. Bank of America
Anyone avoiding his or her boss (management avoiding shareholders) is a bad sign. And studies show that companies known for being a good place to work or for social responsibility outperform the market. Thus, an annual shareholders meeting structured to evade shareholders, employees, or protestors -- e.g., moved to a location that will reduce attendance -- is a red flag for investors.
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Fool contributor Cindy Johnson does not own shares of any stock mentioned in this story. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase. The Fool owns shares of and has opened a short position on Bank of America. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of General Motors and Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.